Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the «Diamond Owl» intellectual game «What? Where? When?»
Liberal Arts
7 minutes for reading

OH, LOVE: Pedro I the Just and Inês de Castro, a girl of the wrong circle

OH, LOVE: Pedro I the Just and Inês de Castro, a girl of the wrong circle
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Artwork: Olena Burdeina (FA_Photo) via Photoshop


No one argues — love motivates, makes you work hard, and gives you inspiration and strength. But for this, it should be happy, right? So that the lover rejoices, so that everything around blooms and smells of perfume, so that feelings feed inspiration, and luck is so good because everything is good and it can’t be otherwise. And from unhappy love, what good to expect — only about it all thoughts, and about the rest, and to think about it is incomprehensible… You know, not always — love, it is love, and what it will throw out at any moment, we do not know.

Portuguese King Pedro I began his reign with the unpleasant nickname Cruel, and the king’s nickname does not depend on his will, once given, it is almost impossible to get rid of it. Pedro I succeeded — for most of his reign, the people called him o Justiceiro (sometimes it is translated as Just). And not only court sycophants — this nickname remained for him in history.

The king carried out a number of very reasonable reforms, reducing the influence of the pope in his country, strictly and successfully punished criminals, and on their nobility (which is not easy even now) it practically did not depend, achieved calm and the triumph of the rule of law in the country. And his unhappy love did not hinder him — instead, it helped him. However, can it be called unhappy despite its terrible end?

Portugal in the romantic and bloody XIV century lived, like all the states of the Iberian Peninsula, more than a rich life — then quarreled with neighboring Castile, then, when the Moors were really annoyed, reconciled and fought against them together. At Rio Salado, Castilian King Alfonso XI and his Portuguese counterpart Afonso IV (in fact, they are namesakes; just the name of this saint in Spain is pronounced this way, and in Portugal — that way) inflicted a terrible defeat on the Moors, putting an end to their attempts to wrest the Iberian Peninsula from the Christians.

Naturally, relations between them were quite close, and Alfonso of Spain was married to the daughter of Afonso of Portugal, and Pedro, son of Afonso, to a relative of his Spanish ally, Princess Constance of Castile.

In principle, we can consider that poor Constance herself to blame for everything — she brought to the Portuguese court as her own maid of honor Ines de Castro, nicknamed «Swan Neck». Of course, they’ve known each other since childhood, and maybe not only known each other — rumor has it that she’s an illegitimate royal daughter, so kin too.


Изображение короля Португалии Петра I, выполненное в XIX веке, на потолке Королевской комнаты, Кинта-да-Регалейра, Синтра, Португалия
A 19th-century depiction of D. Pedro I, King of Portugal, in the ceiling of the «Room of the Kings» in Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal / wikipedia.org


If that’s not true, then she’s the daughter of Fernando de Castro, who did nothing but encourage Portugal to interfere in Castile’s affairs and ended up earning a not-so-pretty nickname as his supposed daughter — everyone called him «War Man». Perhaps it would have been worth a second thought, but Constance was, apparently, kind and soft-hearted, and from this to the queen only harm.

Upon arriving at the Portuguese court, «Swan Neck» somehow became known as Inês de Castro all by herself — the Portuguese are systematically whispery, and there’s nothing to be done about it. We are sometimes misled by the Spanish pronunciation of Portuguese names — Portugal is pressed to the western edge of Europe large Spain, but through Spain to Portugal by land and do not get to Portugal.

However, the author of the Portuguese poetry epic «The Lusiads» Luis de Camoens, is really Luis de Camões, and Vasco da Gama, of course, is Vasca, and no other way, although Google finds 773,000 references to «Vasco da Gama» and only 13,500 to «Vasca da Gama», almost 60 times less. When in Portugal do as the Portuguese do.

And life in Portugal in the beautiful maid of honor at first went well — the husband of her mistress immediately drew favorable attention to her, and, apparently, without any noticeable objections on her part: no medieval cruelties or, God forbid, coercion and no one has not noticed close. As they say in a country far from Portugal: they both wanted it so much that they squeaked! Poor Constance could do nothing, and what she tried to do was clearly insufficient.

She invited Inês to be godmother to her newborn son Luis — thus, Inês became the king’s godmother, and intimacy godfather and godmother was considered a terrible sin by the church. But I’m afraid that no one but the church thought so — remember in Boccaccio’s «Decameron», there are words that, when counting a person’s sins, godfathers and godmothers are not taken into account?

I am afraid that the proverb «A bad godmother is a kuma who was not a godfather» obviously has a Portuguese equivalent… Moreover, Inês’s godson did not survive, and Constantia’s second son Fernando, though he survived, was weak and sickly. Constantia herself died in childbirth before reaching thirty.

The inconsolable widower heir to the throne clearly does not feel himself — with Inês de Castro, he is just fine. They clearly love each other, and there are no contradictions between them and the already invented glasses can not see to hide their relationship; they clearly do not intend to hide their relationship.

Besides, it is already useless, the medieval knowledge of family planning is minimal, so they quickly have four children — a girl and three boys, healthy and vivacious, clearly looking more viable than his legitimate son Fernando. What would happen if Pedro became king and decided that his children by Inês were more worthy of the throne?


Изображение Инес де Кастро, выполненное в XIX веке, на потолке Королевской комнаты, Кинта да Регалейра, Синтра, Португалия
19th-century depiction of Inês de Castro, on the ceiling of the Kings’ Room, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal / wikipedia.org


It’s the Middle Ages, anything can happen. And Prince Fernando’s grandfather and Prince Pedro’s father, old King Afonso, is more and more worried about it — grandfathers certainly love their grandchildren as much as fathers love their sons. He is also worried about the political aspect: the independence of Portugal, for which his great ancestors fought so bravely — is it not threatened by this Spaniard with her noisy family and numerous Castilian relatives?

The old soldier did not go straight to the trouble; he tried to solve everything with kindness. He asked his son whether it was not enough to be a widower, whether it was time to marry again, to have more heirs, so that the dynasty was not threatened by unpleasant accidents? He had to inquire more than once because he always got the same answer:

«You want me to marry? Fine, I do not mind, moreover — categorically in favor. I don’t have to look for a bride, she’s right here: Inês di Castro. You know her well, father; she’s accepted at court, and she’s a noblewoman. She is not a queen, it’s true, but everything in our family was so neat and tidy — your grandfather, King Afonso III, was married to an illegitimate daughter and nothing! There’s no need to fear Spanish influence — Portuguese kings marry Spanish princesses. You’re concerned about my morals? So we’ll get married, and everything will be extremely moral, with no violation of marital fidelity — I, for example, do not intend to … So we agreed, or what? What do you mean no? You’re just against it without a reasonable reason? Then I’m against it too, I’ll be a bachelor for the rest of my life! I won’t marry anyone else, and don’t persuade me — it’ll be worse…»

Of course, Don Pedro remained a bachelor only legally — with Inês de Castro, he practically never separated, and about their relationship, no one bothered to say half a bad word. He built for her near the city of Coimbra palace, where most of he lived, and the stamp on the passport is absent, let passport holders and managers grieve about it before the emergence of which still a few centuries. And all the problems — in this very virtual passport, Inês in the column «social origin» is written «from the nobility», not «from the kings»! Who could be against their living together except God in heaven?


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It is a difficult question — there are reports that he did not object at all. King Pedro himself later, for example, confidently claimed that immediately after the death of Queen Constantia, he and Inês drove to a small village church and entered into a secret marriage there.

No documents about this have survived (and it would be hard to expect such luck), but the probability is very high — they are people of the Middle Ages, for whom the word «sin» was obviously weightier than for our contemporaries! It also explains why Don Pedro so adamantly refuses to remarry. Adultery, of course, is also a sin, but a bigamist is far worse than an adulterer.

For some time, the king tolerated this apparent disobedience of the heir. What caused him to become abruptly alarmed and go to things almost unheard of to change this situation? Could it be that Inês’s belligerent father and brothers had said the wrong thing and in the wrong place? If he listened to them, there would be no time for other things… Maybe he was just worried about his grandson, a weak, sickly and almost defenseless boy?

Then, he was at least wrong, and the future has shown that after the death of Pedro, Fernando freely ascended the throne and not that very well, but reigned for more than fifteen years. However, it was the XIV century, and it adopted a slightly different way of solving problems.

So the king, together with three of his advisers, who pushed him more than anyone else to cut this Gordian knot with a sword — Alvaro Gonçalves, Diego Pocheca and Peru Coelho — gets on his horse and rides to the castle, where Inês and her children lived at the time, to solve the problem according to the recipe of the rippled creature who lived much later. No man — no problem.

Regardless of the degree of their legendary character, all sources agree on one thing: the king demanded that Inês submit to his will or die but left without harming her. The painting by Karl Bryullov illustrates one of the versions: the beautiful Inês begged the king so pitifully to spare her and her children that his heart melted, and he changed his mind.


Карл Брюллов. Смерть Инессы де Кастр, 1834
Karl Brullov. Death of Inessa de Castro, 1834 / wikipedia.org


There is also an alternative version — that Inês categorically refused to part with the man she loved and angrily warned that terrible disasters awaited all of Portugal if they tried to be separated by violence (this turned out to be the purest truth, but it would have been better for Portugal not to find out). In any case, the king initially gave up his terrible intentions, left Inês, and packed for home, determined not to commit the unique atrocity and unprecedented stupidity he was already prepared to commit.

The reason for what happened next we will never know for sure — such things even nowadays prefer not to be documented. How exactly did the three evil advisors manage to convince the king to get off the rails and go back to the most horrible and stupid decision, which he had already rejected?

How did they not realize that Prince Pedro, who would almost inevitably become king, would not forgive their villainy until the devils in hell, on Lucifer’s personal orders, were serving the sinners in cauldrons of ice cream and popsicles? Where were their brains? Maybe they didn’t give a damn about Inês, but they disliked the heir to the throne so much that they decided to try to make the king and the prince hate each other so much that the country had to break the usual order of succession and they could twist something in their favor? It is quite possible — the intriguers of that time were not inferior to the present ones.

Only the sad fact remained: they were able to convince King Afonso to go for the most challenging option. And then the nightmare began. Three of the king’s companions burst into the castle, seized Inês, and, in front of her own son, did without the help of executioners — one of them personally cut off her head! Even by fourteenth-century standards, this was a bit too much. Not to mention the fact that it was not comfy to kill without the decision of a competent court, and even in such a horrible way. Did they really think they could get away with it? And King Afonso himself? How can we find out now?..

Naturally, they did not get away with it — upon learning of what had happened, Prince Pedro immediately rebelled against his own father (also a disaster, of course, but at least it is clear why). The prince had enough supporters who also thought that what had been done was out of line.

Would Inês di Castro wish to do so much harm to a country whose king would sooner or later become her lover? And why would she? And so in the country broke out not just a rebellion, but a rebellion senselessly ferocious — several provinces of the kingdom Prince Pedro literally burned to the ground.

All more or less sane Portuguese were trying to stop this strife, and by some miracle, they achieved the goal — the king and the prince agreed to peace, at least formal. Already from the fact that Prince Pedro, under the terms of this peace, became the official co-emperor of his father, it is clear that his support was strong enough.

And how the two of them would rule together (I doubt it would be easy) did not have to be seen — soon after the conclusion of the peace, the broken heart of the old King Afonso stopped. Probably under the weight of shame for the stupidity and senselessness of what he had done.

Prince Pedro became king and immediately acquired the nickname «Cruel», a frequent nickname in those days — in neighboring Castile around the same time reigned King Pedro Cruel. Did anyone expect him not to pursue the three nobles who ruined his love? They realize it themselves, and after his accession, they fearfully flee to Castile.

It turned out that this was not enough — only Diego Pocheco guessed to disguise himself as a beggar and escape to France, where he disappeared without a trace. Later, everyone realized that this was not the worst option — Pedro threatened Castile with immediate war if the fugitives were not extradited to him. Castile chose not to get involved, and all hell broke loose for Inês’s killers.

Not only were they subjected to elaborate torture (who would have doubted it?), but the sentence itself was sadistically cruel. It emphasized that there were no people more heartless, but their execution proved otherwise — everyone had a heart. Pedro Coelho, still alive, had his heart ripped out through his chest, and Alvaro Gonçalves had his heart ripped out through his back. And many report that it was King Pedro who did it, not the royal executioner. In person, with his own hands.

That didn’t seem enough for him.

In 1360, the monarch announced that he and Inês had been married, called as witnesses the bishop of the province and the faithful servant who had always accompanied him — they confirmed everything, of course, if they hadn’t! The embalmed body of Inês was taken out of the tomb, seated as it was, with her head sewn on and in a splendid dress on one of the two thrones in the cathedral of Coimbra, the king sat next to her, and Inês was solemnly crowned — five years after her death.

All Portuguese nobles had to show their submission to this decision by kissing the dead queen’s hand. None refused. After the coronation, Pedro ordered her to be buried in a luxurious new tomb and left a place for himself so that they could see each other before the Last Judgment as soon as they were resurrected. On the marble gravestone was engraved the inscription «Until the end of the world…».


Пьер-Шарль Конт. Коронация Инес де Кастро, около 1849 года
Pierre-Charles Comte. The Coronation of Ines de Castro, circa 1849 / wikipedia.org


Pedro went on to rule intelligently and successfully, as mentioned at the beginning, doing the near impossible — he was able to make him forget his nickname and acquire another much more laudable one. After his death, his son from his first marriage, Fernando, safely took the throne (so that King Afonso was afraid for nothing for him), but because of his frailty, he never got a son heir until his death.

And the throne after him was given to another son, Pedro. By Inês di Castro, right? No, both her sons lost the civil war that arose after Fernando’s death, and Juan reigned, the son of King Pedro’s new lover, Teresa Lourenço, a very sensible and prosperous king, nicknamed Juan the Good and even Juan the Great.

So be careful what you say about eternal love, and don’t think that in the dark, bloody, and mystical 14th century, things were so different from our times. We are all toys of fate, and the true meaning of all our deeds will be revealed only to distant descendants if it will be attractive to them at all.

And this love the world does not forget. There are many movies about the relationship between Pedro and Inês, including a pompous series made for the Portuguese state television channel in 2005, to the 630th anniversary of her death, and operas «Inês de Castro» count more than twenty.

Next to the tomb of Inês and Pedro, a monument to «Eternal Love» has recently been erected — a solid modernist design. If they were resurrected and saw this monument, they wouldn’t understand what it had to do with them. But what else can you expect from modern people who understand nothing about truly high love? Thank you, and that’s all…

Neither another «soap opera» nor a big fancy iron does not correspond to the greatness and tragedy of this feeling. It’s just our fruitless efforts to understand what our brains can no longer accommodate — the corresponding departments have withered away for uselessness.

But we are not hopeless yet, and we are also happy to realize that there was love on our planet worth such a price. For whatever Inês de Castro felt in her dying seconds — horror, longing, despair — I am sure of one thing: she did not regret her love.


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